By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU
At approximately 09:45 on 11 SEPT 2001 the Pentagon came under attack by radical fundamentalists. After taking control of American Airlines Flight 77, a 757 loaded with innocent souls, hijackers intentionally piloted the aircraft into the side of the Pentagon killing 125 in the building, all 59 aboard the plane, and injuring 110 others.
The plane had hit at ground level, but being thankful for small blessings, this section of the Pentagon had just been renovated and was not fully occupied. In addition, the floors above, 3rd, 4th and 5th floors, stayed up for another 45 minutes allowing more people to escape or be rescued. The armored windows and fire protection that had been installed during the renovation of that section also mitigated some of the damage. Plus the inside walls on the outer ring are lined with a kevlar material (the material used in body armor) to prevent shrapnel from entering the occupied space. Had the hijacked plane hit an area that had not been renovated, or was fully occupied, the disaster could have been quantifiably worse.
As a testament to the strength and resolve of the American people, the damage to the Pentagon was repaired in record time. The construction workers working on Project Phoenix considered it an honor to be part of the effort to bring the US military command structure back to full capability. And right there in the rubble working on the renovation was former First Class Diver SW2 (DV) Patrick Stethem, the brother of SW2 (DV) Robert Stethem who had been killed by terrorists in 1985. Like his brother, Patrick had served two tours with UCT-1 in Little Creek and, after 9-11, went on to continue serving with pride as a civilian contractor on the Pentagon project.
But not to dwell on the tragedy, the U.S. military response was swift, deadly and effective. Although the Pentagon had been damaged, it in no way hindered the national command authority (NCA) from identifying the al Qaeda attackers and going after their leaders, cohorts and bases in Afghanistan.
Never Forget 9-11